The Power of the Weak: How Informal Power-Sharing Shapes the Work of the UN Security Council. Under review.

Abstract: To what extent can minor states constrain great powers? Do institutional practices shape state behavior? This study presents the argument that great powers engage in informal power-sharing in international organizations to attain unanimity, which enhances the signaling effect of these institutions. The pursuit of unanimity lends weight to additional votes beyond those needed for decision-making under the formal rules. In turn, informal power-sharing to attain unanimity enables minor powers to exert more influence than they could if only material power and formal rules were decisive. A mixed-methods analysis of the UN Security Council tests this argument. It identifies several power-sharing practices. Design-based causal inference and a case study reveal that minor powers have disproportional influence over the deployment of UN peace operations. Their influence is particularly pronounced during crises, when great powers are most eager to secure small states’ votes through power-sharing, and while minor powers preside over the Council.

Abstract: Do peacekeepers protect civilians in civil conflict? Securing civilian safety is a key objective of contemporary peacekeeping missions, yet whether these efforts actually make a difference on the ground is widely debated in large part because of intractable endogeneity concerns and selection bias. To overcome these issues, we use an instrumental variables design, leveraging exogenous variation in the rotation of African members of the United Nations Security Council and looking at its effects on African civil wars. We show that states that wield more power send more peacekeepers to their preferred locations, and that these peacekeepers in turn help to protect civilians. We thus demonstrate the robustness of many existing results to a plausible identification strategy and present a method that can also be applied to other diverse settings in international relations.

Winning Hearts and Minds in Civil Wars: Governance, Leadership Change, and Support for Violent Groups in Iraq, with Saurabh Pant and Beza Tesfaye. American Journal of Political Science 64(4): 773-790.

Abstract: The ‘hearts and minds’ model of combating rebellions holds that civilians are less likely to support violent opposition groups if the government provides public services and security. Building on this model, we argue that a political event that raises popular expectations of future public service and security provision increases support for the government and decreases sympathy for violent opposition groups. To test this argument, we leverage a unique research design opportunity that stems from the unforeseen announcement of the resignation of Iraq’s divisive prime minister in August 2014 while an original survey was being administered across the country. We show that the leadership transition led Iraq’s displeased Sunni minority to shift support from the violent opposition to the government. In line with our argument, this realignment was due to rising optimism among Sunnis that the new government would provide services and public goods – specifically security, electricity, and jobs.

Issue linkage across international organizations: Does European countries’ temporary membership in the UN Security Council increase their receipts from the EU budget?. Review of International Organizations 13(4): 491-518.

Abstract: What explains the outcome of interstate negotiations in international organizations (IOs)? While existing research highlights member states’ power, preference intensity, and the IO’s institutional design, this paper introduces an additional source of bargaining power in IOs: Through issue linkage members of an IO leverage privileged positions in other IOs to obtain more favorable bargaining outcomes. Specifically, European Union members are more successful in bargaining over the EU budget while they hold a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Inside the UNSC EU members can promote security interests of other European countries, and they can use their influence to secure side-payments from the EU budget. The study tests this argument by investigating new EU budget data, and it shows that EU members obtain 1.7 billion Euro in additional net receipts during a two-year UNSC term, on average. Thus, bargaining processes in the EU and the UN are intricately linked.

Lessons on Political Violence from America’s Post-9/11 Wars. With Jacob Shapiro. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(1): 174-202.

Abstract: A large literature has emerged in political science that studies the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This paper summarizes the lessons learned from this literature, both theoretical and practical. To put this emerging knowledge base into perspective we review findings along two dimensions of conflict: factors influencing whether states or sub-state groups enter into conflict in the first place; and variables affecting the intensity of fighting at particular times and places once war has started. We then discuss the external validity issues entailed in learning about contemporary wars and insurgencies from research focused on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars during the period of U.S. involvement. We close by summarizing the uniquely rich qualitative and quantitative data on these wars (both publicly available and what likely exists but has not been released) and outline potential avenues for future research.

The Peace Science Digest 1(6) featured a summary of the article.

The Responsive Public: How European Union Decisions Shape Public Opinion on Salient Policies. Forthcoming in European Union Politics.

This study argues that the European Union’s adoption of a policy increases popular support
for that policy. Elite cue theory implies that this effect only materializes
among Europeans who trust the Union. Moreover, European Union member states’ unanimous policy support conveys a stronger cue than the Union’s policy endorsement
despite vocal dissent. The argument is tested through original survey experiments
and the quasi-experimental analysis of a survey that was fielded while
the European Council endorsed a salient policy proposal. Support of the policy
surged immediately after this decision – but only among Europeans who trust
the Union. Experiments in original national surveys confirm that citizens who
trust the European Union respond to signals from Brussels. Unanimity in the Council of the
European Union augments the impact of these cues.

Cueing Foreign Elite Consensus or Division: The Effect of Unanimity in International Organizations on Public Opinion. Under review.

Abstract: How do international organizations (IOs) affect public opinion? Recent scholarship shows that members of the public tend to be rationally ignorant about international affairs and form an opinion by observing unity or disagreements among well-informed and trusted elites. Building on that insight, this study argues that the effect of IOs on public opinion depends on whether they signal consensus or divisions among member states’ representatives. Specifically, unanimous policy decisions signal consensus among international elites in support of a policy, which rallies support for the policy among members of the public who trust the organization. In contrast, approval despite vocal dissent or non-approval due to vetoes cue divisions between international elites, and they have a smaller effect on public opinion. Four survey experiments administered to large samples of American citizens in 2016 and 2018 test this argument in the issue area of international security. They show that the unanimous endorsement of a U.S. military intervention by the UN Security Council increases American popular support for the use of force by six to ten percentage points, in comparison to the Council’s approval of the same action despite dissent. Causal mediation analyses provide evidence on the mechanisms at work. These findings challenge the literature on international organizations and public opinion, which conceives of the signals conveyed by these institutions as dichotomous (policy support or opposition) and therefore does not distinguish between cues of unity and divisions among international elites.

Explaining support for fragmented and unified counterinsurgencies: Experimental evidence from Iraq. With Saurabh Pant. Under review.

Abstract: A near-consensus exists that the outcome of counterinsurgencies critically depends on the success of each side to win the support of civilians. Recent studies contend that violence against civilians shifts victims’ allegiance away from the perpetrator and toward its opponent. In this paper, we argue that an external military intervention that favors the government changes this dynamic as long as there is widespread opposition to the insurgency. Specifically, we expect that harm against civilians that is inflicted by the government does not shift support away from the counterinsurgency and toward a loathed insurgency if an external intervener also fights this rebellion. Instead, we expect that government-inflicted harm increases support for the external intervention, as long as that intervention is viewed as independent from the government that harms its citizens. Experimental evidence from an original national survey in Iraq, which was conducted at the height of the civil war in 2015, is consistent with this argument. List experiments reveal that popular support for ISIS was extremely low (at 1.4%) while support for U.S.-led international coalition airstrikes was substantially higher at 31.7%. Victimization by domestic counterinsurgents did not affect sympathy for the ISIS insurgency, but it did increase support for the international coalition airstrikes – except for those respondents who were experimentally induced to consider the close ties between Iraqi and foreign counterinsurgents. Thus, the perception of a counterinsurgency as fragmented (rather than unified) can help maintain popular support for the broad counterinsurgency effort even if one counterinsurgent is responsible for victimizing civilians.

From Paper to Peace? Compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions in Civil War

Abstract: How do international organizations influence the behavior of states and nonstate actors? How do they secure compliance with the rules they adopt? This paper investigates the puzzle of compliance with resolutions issued by the UN Security Council. The existing literature on compliance with international regimes and armed conflict termination does not explain why warring factions comply with international organizations’ demands for the cessation of hostilities. This paper aims to close this lacuna and presents explanations of compliance derived from managerialism, enforcement theory, and the literature on international security organizations. The study empirically tests the competing arguments using original data. The findings corroborate enforcement theory, but they do not lend support to managerialist explanations of compliance. This paper introduces a new data set on compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. It presents the results of the first empirical analysis of compliance with a large set of Security Council resolutions to date.

Policy research

Mikulaschek, Christoph and Jane Esberg. 2021. Digital Technologies, Peace and Security: Challenges and Opportunities for United Nations Peace Operations. United Nations Department of Peace Operations.

Mikulaschek, Christoph, Terje Rod-Larsen, and Hans Winkler (eds.). 2010. The UN Security Council and the Responsibility to Protect: Policy, Process, and Practice, special issue of Favorita Papers, 2010/1.

Boutellis, Arthur and Christoph Mikulaschek. 2012. Strengthening Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation: Istanbul Retreat of the UN Security Council. New York: International Peace Institute.

Mikulaschek, Christoph and Paul Romita. 2011. Conflict Prevention: Toward More Effective Multilateral Strategies. New York: International Peace Institute.

Cockayne, James, Christoph Mikulaschek, and Chris Perry. 2010. The UN Security Council and Civil War: First Insights From a New Dataset. New York: International Peace Institute.

Cockayne, James and Christoph Mikulaschek. 2008. Transnational Security Challenges and the United Nations: Overcoming Sovereign Walls and Institutional Silos. New York: International Peace Academy.